Rorate Caeli

“Everything that contributes to rootedness [in the faith] must be encouraged”

Newly ordained FSSP priest offering the Holy Mass
The following are excerpts from an interview done by Famille Chrétienne with Father Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut Jussé, a canonist and theologian, former head of the application of the motu proprio Summorum pontificum in Compiègne. The interview first appeared on July 20, 2022; a translation is made now (from this source) because the issues continue to be entirely relevant.

FC: One year after the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, the pope reaffirmed his will to drastically limit the use of the Tridentine rite in his apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi in the name of the unity of the Church. In what way does the Tridentine rite threaten the unity of the Church more than the other rites admitted within it?

PHJ: The unprecedented crisis that the Christian West is undergoing today is first and foremost doctrinal and pastoral. The Church derives its unity not from the liturgy but from the same profession of faith and the same fidelity to the grace that saves us, communicated principally through the sacraments. We are living in a paradoxical situation: there is a collapse of unity in the faith which goes hand in hand with the affirmation of the absolute necessity of liturgical and even pastoral unity...

FC: Does it pose a problem in itself that there are two forms of the same Roman rite?

PHJ: When St. Pius V, at the end of the Council of Trent, granted freedom to all priests of the Roman Church to celebrate the missal in use in the Roman curia, he intended to offer to all a liturgy which was the fruit of a homogeneous development which went back in its essential elements to the great patristic period. But he also maintained the freedom to celebrate the liturgical forms of more than two hundred years. Moreover, there is a real breakdown in the celebration of the missal promulgated in 1969, a breakdown that goes far beyond the possible adaptations foreseen by the text. The Council recognized Gregorian chant as the proper chant of the Roman Church, it wanted it to have the first place in the liturgical celebrations, the rubrics of the ordinary of the Mass seem to indicate that the Mass is celebrated ad orientem, thus allowing the whole of the people of God, ministers and faithful, to turn together towards the Lord (avoiding a very clerical face-to-face confrontation?), and yet it is almost impossible to find in France a liturgy that meets the requirements of the Council, except in places where the traditional liturgy is celebrated...

FC: It is not uncommon to hear that the faithful attached to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite are not in perfect communion with the Catholic Church. What are the criteria for such communion?

PHJ: Every member of the faithful who professes the Catholic faith as contained in the infallible teaching of the Church and who seeks to live the Gospel in all its demands is in perfect communion with the whole Church. Moreover, the Church's law, like the Second Vatican Council, recognizes the freedom to associate, to promote this or that spirituality, to spread the Gospel in one's family, workplace, social and political responsibilities, etc. Pastors exercise a mission of vigilance if the exercise or expression of this right goes against Catholic doctrine and morals. To go beyond this mission is to risk falling into a new form of clericalism. Finally, I note that most young people are insensitive to the "argument of authority" when it is misused or used illegitimately!

Dom Geoffroy Kemlin emphasizes in his interview the fact that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI "could only be provisional". What do you think about this?

This is not a question I can answer. Through baptism, the Christian is placed in a provisional situation, that of waiting for the Resurrection! There are provisional decisions that have ended up lasting for centuries. Every pastoral decision is judged by its fruits: the maintenance or restoration of peace, communion in the same faith, recognition of legitimate diversity, protection of the rights of the faithful. It is indisputable that the Motu proprio Summorum pontificum has greatly contributed to pacifying minds and has allowed many young people to experience Tradition....

Pope Francis reminds us in his letter that every Catholic must "accept the liturgical reform born of Sacrosanctum Concilium" and thus the Paul VI Mass. What does this mean in a profound way? Should attachment to the Tridentine rite or refusal to concelebrate be considered a form of rejection of Paul VI's Mass?

PHJ: Let God search hearts and minds! Unfortunately, the very harsh measures against the traditional liturgy strike indiscriminately at all Latin priests, including those who already celebrate the missal of Paul VI, who concelebrate with their bishop and their confreres, and who have only responded in a broad and generous way to the legitimate demands of a portion of the people of God, without seeking to impose Latin, Gregorian chant, and communion in the mouth on the other faithful.

FC: For Dom Kemlin, the diversity of rites does not harm the unity of the Church when it is based on an objective criterion (belonging to a region or a country, or to a religious order). But it becomes problematic when it is based on a subjective criterion, on a personal choice, because, he says, "the liturgy is something that does not come from us but that we receive from the Church. Doesn't the Tridentine Rite fit precisely this definition?

PHJ: This view seems a bit strange to me. It ignores the importance of the spiritual experience of the faithful, their rights and their freedom. If a young person enters the Abbey of Solesmes, he chooses a way of living the liturgy and this fundamental right is not only recognized but protected by the Church. The same is true if they enter Fontgombault, Le Barroux, or La Pierre-qui-vire. There is indeed a personal choice which is legitimate and which must be respected. Having accompanied many young adults towards baptism, I have often noticed that the traditional liturgy constitutes a structuring element in their conversion and in their spiritual physiognomy, which does not prevent them, afterwards, from opening up to other realities of the Church. Liturgy does not exist in the absolute. It is paradoxical to affirm that the liturgy constitutes a central element of the faith identity of the faithful and at the same time not to understand that the faithful react when the concrete form in which they live the Christian mystery is modified or even disrupted. This constitutes a rather disembodied, even gnostic, vision of the liturgy. Everything that contributes to rootedness [in the faith] must be encouraged. Finally, I note that the subjectivity of the priest appears much more in the liturgy that came out of the Council than in the traditional liturgy, in which the celebrant totally effaces himself in order to let the rite and the splendor of the celebrated mystery shine through.

FC: Is it not paradoxical, at a time when synodality is constantly being emphasized, that one branch of the Church has no voice?

PHJ: The notion, if not the reality, of synodality must be the subject of another type of consideration, one that is historical, doctrinal, critical, and pastoral. In the present phase, with a few exceptions, only the demands and claims of a certain fringe of the Church have come up. For some, it is a question of building a synodal Church. It is here that I agree with Dom Kemlin's concern: is the mystery of the Church received or constructed? There is a great deal of work to be done to study the scriptural, patristic, historical, theological, and pastoral foundations of synodality. But I have already experienced that some of the proponents of this new way of "doing church" are not very open to dialogue, to contradiction, to reasonable argumentation...

Couldn't the maintenance of the Tridentine rite be considered as one of the remedies for the collapse of religious practice [in our times]?

PHJ: That seems obvious to me.